EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 Headphone Review


Performance
Build Quality
Comfort
Value
PRICE $1,190

AT A GLANCE
Plus
Hybrid dynamic/electrostatic design
Brilliant high-resolution sound!
Wide open imaging
Minus
The relatively stiff cable is kinky

THE VERDICT
The EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 seamlessly melds dynamic and electrostatic drivers to produce ultra high-resolution sound.

Even though I was hearing good reports from friends about the EnigmAcoustics Dharma D1000 hybrid electrostatic/dynamic headphone, I was still more than a bit skeptical about how successful the blending of its two drivers could be. AKG made hybrid dynamic/electrostatic headphones in the late 1970s. I auditioned a pair just a few years ago and heard the electrostatic tweeter and dynamic driver as two separate sound sources. Thankfully, the Dharma D1000 aced the blend—the two drivers sound like one.

More good news: EnigmAcoustics’ SBESL (Self-Biased Electrostatic) technology eliminates the need for an AC power connection to provide a polarizing voltage for the tweeter, so you can plug the Dharma D1000 into any standard ¼ inch (6.3mm) headphone jack. The headphone’s 52mm Washi paper driver seamlessly transitions to the electrostatic tweeter with a phase-coherent (first-order) crossover at 10 kilohertz.

It’s a big headphone, but it feels fairly light. The Dharma D1000’s round ear pads are nicely cushioned, and build quality standards are fully commensurate with the Dharma D1000’s high-end aspirations. The 10-foot-long, user-replaceable cable is fairly stiff and prone to kink, but it uses secure-fitting ear-cup plug connectors. I listened with a few different headphone amps at home, namely the Oppo HA-1, Burson Audio HA-160, and the little Apogee Groove, and preferred the last two amps. Dharma D1000 sounded substantially different with each amp: The HA-1 was too lean, while the HA-160 was best. The Groove was also sweet; it did a nice job filling out the midrange.

Listening to Simon & Garfunkel’s Live 1969 CD with the HA-160 and the Dharma D1000 was a mind-altering experience. The music may have been recorded live 46 years ago, but it feels like it’s alive, right now: The voices and Simon’s guitar are right there, with nothing added or taken away. That’s what a great headphone can do: provide a far more direct portal to the sound of a recording than speakers ever can. Speakers are, after all, always heard within and colored by the acoustics of the room. With the best head- phones, nothing stands between your ears and the music.

I brought the Dharma D1000 to a Chesky Records session where I listened to Noah Wall and the New Appalachians sing live, then rushed back to the control room and hear the band over the headphones. The virtual reality aspects of the sound, even by high-end standards, were thrilling. The match was awfully close, though I did feel the Dharma D1000 made Wall’s voice sound tonally lighter, with less body than she really has. The Audeze LCD X headphones were better in that regard—they had a less prominent, sweeter treble—but the Dharma D1000 pulled ahead in terms of putting me in the room with the band. The stand-up bass “pluck” and woody tone was more fully developed, and the “spaces” between the instruments were more clearly defined over the Dharma D1000. Once you experience that wide-open yet sharply focused soundstage, other headphones sound rather small and narrow.

The Dharma D1000 will delight audiophiles seeking high-resolution sound, but its extraordinary detail also highlights recording flaws and harshness. Too much information might be an issue, depending on the sort of music you play. I would not recommend the Dharma D1000 to anyone looking for a headphone that makes everything sound great; if you’re after something more forgiving, the Audeze LCD 3 would be a better choice. That said, Audeze headphones fall short of the ultimate resolution provided by the Dharma D1000.

EnigmAcoustics’ matching Athena A1 hybrid tube/solid-state headphone amplifier wasn’t yet available when this review was underway, but I imagine it’s going to be sweet with the Dharma D1000. Let the good times roll!